April 9, 2014

Australians have won 4 PGA titles since Feb., a threat at Masters

When Adam Scott vanquished Angel Cabrera on the second playoff hole of the 2013 Masters, Australia’s Augusta drought ended in dramatic fashion.

Scott’s countrymen finished second eight times at Augusta National Golf Club before his breakthrough last year, and the Aussie faucet still hasn’t been twisted to the off position.

Australians have won four PGA Tour events since mid-February, including a run of three of the past four tournaments leading into the Masters.

"We’re a close-knit group of guys out there from Australia," said Scott, who also won the Barclays in 2013. "It’s motivation for all of us. To see someone else doing well is maybe a kick in the pants or something to keep pushing you along. I definitely have had that feeling myself, seeing other guys be successful out here."

Matt Jones earned the final spot in this year’s Masters when he won the Shell Houston Open on Sunday with a 42-yard chip-in on the first playoff hole to beat Matt Kuchar. A PGA Tour victory comes with an automatic invitation to the Masters.

Jones’ win came after Steve Bowditch won the Valero Texas Open the week before. John Senden won the Valspar Championship on March 16, and Jason Day claimed the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in late February. "To see Matt Jones win and Bowdo win, who are guys I grew up with, was a great feeling for me because, they finally got the belief that they were that good, and that’s what I said to Matt, I think he should believe how good he is," Scott said.

Like most Australian golfers, Scott grew to love the Masters by watching countryman Greg Norman come so close to winning in Augusta. Being the first from his country to win became a motivation. Jones said the current Australian players used Scott’s Masters victory as a boost of confidence and a way to motivate themselves to take the next step.

"Since Adam won, Australia’s been pretty abuzz with golf," Jones said. "What he did for the Australian golf community is pretty great. I think a lot of the Australian golfers fed off that."

Scott’s first major championship victory helped vault him into second in the Official World Golf Rankings. Day is close behind in fourth.

"Going back last year after (Scott) won, it was very inspiring for a lot of golfers that are on the tour to kind of kick their game up another level," Day said.

While Bowditch and Jones have had breakthroughs from seemingly out of nowhere, Day has been steady during the past few years and likely poses the greatest chance (along with Scott) of an Australian slipping on the green jacket again this year.

Day finished second in his Masters debut in 2011 and added a third-place finish in 2013. He has two PGA Tour victories and has finished with a win and a tie for second in three PGA Tour events this season.

Either Day or Scott would move to the No. 1 ranking with a win this week. "Scotty’s been playing great." Day said. "He has an opportunity this week to get to No. 1, if he wins. It’s exciting stuff for Australian golf right now."

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